Unleashing left-wing anti-Semitism

To date, mercifully, Britain and Australia, have both been spared the bloody terrorist atrocities that have left hundreds dead and injured across mainland Europe in recent months.

But God forbid, should Islamist merchants of death strike, whether their targets be the Jewish population or the general population, inevitably, as has been the case following attacks in mainland Europe, there would be those on the left pointing the finger of blame at Israel.

However, it doesn’t take a terrorist attack for these obsessive critics of the Jewish State to condemn what they consider a colonialist, apartheid and even illegitimate or Nazi-esque regime. Turning a blind eye to far more urgent trouble spots in the world and far more demonstrable human rights abuses, publicly lashing out at Israel is, for them, at the very least simply a way to demonstrate their politically correct credentials and, at the most, a somewhat sinister electoral ploy designed to win over Muslim voters.

Taken to task over their disproportionate focus on the Jewish State or terminology they would never use in discussions of other countries, such as invoking comparisons to the Holocaust, questioning its right to exist or lamenting the power of the Israel or Zionist lobby over governments and the media, they will invariably deny they are anti-Semitic. Anti-Israel – as it currently manifests itself – certainly. Anti-Zionist, very possibly. Anti-Semitic though, not at all.

Never mind that the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community find their comments offensive or that they are resurrecting age-old anti-Semitic tropes redolent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Mein Kampf or Der Sturmer, they presume to tell Jews precisely what they should and should not be offended by.

Needless to say, they wouldn’t presume to dictate what members of the Muslim or the gay community are or are not allowed to find offensive. But seeking refuge behind the veil of what they consider perfectly acceptable Israel-bashing or anti-Zionism, they arrogantly dismiss any notion that they or their comments could possibly be conceived as anti-Semitic.

Further, they are so wrapped up in their self-righteous indignation over Israel that they are oblivious to the impact that their constant condemnation of the country has on society at large. In their own imaginations, they may be able to draw a dubious distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, but their language and their tone help foster an atmosphere in which Jews and Jewish institutions are considered legitimate targets by militant anti-Israel activists.

A case in point is the new president of Britain’s National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, who bemoaned that her university was “a Zionist outpost in British higher education” and attacked “Zionist-led media outlets”.

Bouattia is just one of a number of left-wing characters whose actions have rocked the British Labour Party to its core in recent weeks. Over the past two months, the party leadership, has been forced, seemingly reluctantly, to take action against a relentless succession of Labour activists, Labour councillors and even leading Labour luminaries for their anti-Semitic pronouncements, whether they’re talking about “addressing the Jewish problem”, Jews having “big noses”, Hitler killing “six million Zionists”, Israel being behind ISIS, Israel being behind the Paris terror attacks, “Zionist Jews” being “a disgrace to humanity” or, in the case of MP Naz Shah, the suggestion that the entire country of Israel be transported to the US so the Palestinians could have their land back and, a statement during the last Gaza conflict that “the Jews are rallying”.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone was also suspended after springing to Shah’s defence, claiming that no less a figure than Hitler “was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.

In one bizarre incident, a Labour activist was branded a “Jew-lover” simply because she described former foreign secretary David Miliband more attractive than his brother Ed, who was until last year Labour Party leader.

And it goes on and on. This Monday in the space of just a few hours, three Labor councillors were suspended after anti-Semitic comments they had made became public.

That there is a systemic problem in the party was underlined in February, when the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club resigned from his position, claiming the organisation and the student left “have some kind of problem with Jews”.

But throughout all the revelations, and despite senior figures both Jewish and non-Jewish in the party expressing their deepest concern, despite major Jewish funders pulling their support, despite lifelong Jewish voters defecting, and despite daily newspaper headlines detailing the latest slur on the Jewish community to emanate from Labour ranks, party leader Jeremy Corbyn dogmatically refuses to admit the party has a problem with anti-Semitism.

Why? Because he himself is a vehement critic of Israel, because he himself has described Hamas and Hezbollah as “our friends”, because he himself has praised an Islamist hate preacher who was banned from Britain for his virulent anti-Semitism, and because he himself comes from the far-left fringes of the party where anti-Zionism is par for the course and where anti-Semitism flourishes – although its perpetrators, priding themselves on their anti-racism credentials and pointing to the handful of anti-Zionist Jews who share their beliefs, are incredulous at any suggestion that they could be guilty of anti-Semitism.

In short, Corbyn can’t see there’s a problem, because he’s part of the problem – part of a faction that’s in denial over what actually constitutes anti-Semitism.

Can we comfort ourselves here in Australia that one of our own parties wouldn’t be similarly afflicted? Sadly, we know only too well from very recent history that there are those on the fringes – and indeed some elder statesmen – who hold similar views about Israel.

Do they wield any power? We’ve certainly seen them flex their muscles – forcing Julia Gillard to change Australia’s vote at the UN in one instance, as well as trying to pass anti-Israel motions at recent Labor Party conferences.

While the eventual resolutions that were passed may have been less than we could have hoped for, nonetheless we can be very thankful for those in the ALP who resisted – and continue to resist – the anti-Israel faction’s attempts to hijack the party’s foreign policy agenda. The question, though, is whether those on the fringes will remain on the fringes or whether there’s a danger of them wresting control from the more moderate mainstream.

It couldn’t happen here, we might think. But then, a year ago, nobody would have ever dreamed that career backbencher, socialist firebrand and party rebel Jeremy Corbyn would lead Labour in Britain.

Sounding the death knell for the centre left party moulded by Tony Blair, and despite the centre-leaning make-up of the parliamentary party, Corbyn was propelled to the top spot, in the wake of an unexpected general election wipe-out that saw the incumbent Miliband step down and with votes from grassroots Labour activists and Labour-affiliated unions sweeping him to power.

Crucially, Britain is not the only country where rank and file Labour/Labor members and affiliated unions have a voice in who becomes leader. And, while it is easy and comforting to dismiss the anti-Israel/anti-Zionist activists as fringe elements here in Australia, if that fringe can mobilise in the UK, then it can do so Down Under as well, especially in the wake of a federal election landslide loss. A

nd if that happens? Interviewed on TV last week about Corbyn and anti-Semitism, award-winning author Howard Jacobson put it best; “When he came into power and I felt that when I was writing for The Independent, a new kind of thread starting to appear at the bottom of one’s articles, a new virulence, a new viciousness.

“It’s as though Jeremy Corbyn unleashed something. It had been there all along but he gave it a new voice.”

Zeddy Lawrence is national editor of The AJN.